What is Tacit Knowledge?

Tacit Knowledge definition

Tacit knowledge is knowledge that is hard to quantify or pass from one person to another through verbal or written communication. Tacit knowledge includes skills like speaking a language, playing a music instrument or carving a figurine out of a piece of wood, along with basic life skills such as facial recognition.

Tacit knowledge differs from explicit knowledge, which is easy to pass onto other people, such as who the lead singer of Queen is, or who invented the printing press. While the transfer of explicit knowledge can be conducted quickly and impersonally, tacit knowledge generally requires long periods of personal contact, unchartered or unique teaching processes and extensive self-improvement and reflection.

Shared experience is important to the transfer of tacit knowledge – a good example would be guitar tuition. In business, a core part of apprenticeships is the transfer of tacit knowledge between an expert and an apprentice. Mentoring will also typically involve tacit knowledge transfer.

According to Parsaye and Chigwell (1988), there are three main approaches to acquiring tacit knowledge – interviewing experts, learning by being told and learning by observation.